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Scientists Reveal Equation for Happiness

Literally: They developed a mathematical formula to predict it
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2014 1:50 PM CDT
Scientists Reveal Equation for Happiness
A woman flashes a smile during an event called "Return Happiness to Thai People" in Bangkok in June.   (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)

(Newser) – How happy will you be at a given point in time? Scientists have come up with an equation to answer the question, or as they call it in the journal PNAS, "a computational and neural model of momentary subjective well-being." Mathematicians can marvel at the actual formula here. Laymen can simply remember this takeaway: Lower expectations can bring you more happiness, Today reports. In a series of tests on subjects, the researchers found that people are happiest when things turn out better than expected, happier even than they would be had expectations been high in the first place.

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But it's not just about your expectations at any given moment, a researcher from University College London tells the BBC. "All of the recent expectations and rewards combine to determine your current state of happiness." And all these factors get crunched in the fancy formula. "We can look at past decisions and outcomes and predict exactly how happy you will say you are at any point in time," says the researcher. The team proved the point by accurately predicting happiness levels of 18,000 users of a smartphone app called "The Great Brain Experiment." Researchers hope the findings can boost our understanding of mood disorders. (If all that's too complicated, try the pope's tips for happiness.)

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